An entertaining game at Trafford Park saw Stevenage FCW once again leave it late to overcome the hosts Wroxham on Sunday in the ERWFL Premier Division. The five times Hertfordshire County Cup winners saw a plethora of chances come and go but after dropping behind to an outstanding goal by Holly Walker, it took an inspired intervention from Jodie Bellinger and Tilly Fidler to help rescue the points, much to the despair of the home side.
Megan Gowing would have been forgiven for thinking she was playing against more than eleven players with the number of opportunities created by Stevenage in the first half, but her positioning was such that she rarely seemed troubled. Efforts flew in from last week’s heroes Amy Gooderham and Vicky Neal, but Gowing was equal to the first and not needed for the second.
Kelsey Millen was having a fruitful time down the Boro’ right, as she attempted to add to her assist tally for the season. Becky Shephard was first to try her luck with Gowing again in the right place to catch the ball with ease. Nicole Farmer saw a good free kick sail just over the bar before Lucy Webster sent a good ball in to Gooderham who was foiled by Gowing once again.
Shephard, Millen and Rosy Wodhams all saw efforts come and go before the end of the half, all of which either missed the target, was stopped by Gowing or saw solid defending from the home side. It was a half that was dominated by the visitors, but yet the home side had never really looked like conceding.
The second half saw four changes for Boro’. Within three minutes the first real clear cut opportunity arrived as Emily Schofield saw her cross from the right travel tantalisingly in front of Erin Price. A touch would have surely seen a goal, but the ball was narrowly missed and the home side survived the scare.
The Wroxham left still seemed to be the source of Boro’s joy, with Ellie Overton effectively shutting down the opposite flank. Top scorer Amy Makewell saw her first chance come down this side as the ball from Mia O’Brien bounced once and Makewell took a snapshot that flew wide of the post.
A scramble in the box was the next obstacle for Wroxham to survive, which they did well before setting up a counter attack that required some unbelievable tracking back from Neal to defend. Walker had the home side’s best opportunity, but the ball was not on target. It was a warning sign that Wroxham could catch Boro’ out with a break, one that would repeat itself twenty minutes later.
Makewell saw her best effort, a first time volley in the area, saved by Gowing and a free kick that was awarded to Stevenage for holding the ball for too long was sent straight into the wall. Grace Brooks nearly scored from another free kick and Schofield saw her effort after cutting inside from the left, turned around the post by Gowing.
With Boro’ searching for the opening goal, Wroxham started to push themselves. A short purple patch saw Walker turn her defender, shift the ball to her left and create an opening for an absolute rocket into the top corner that no goalkeeper in the world would have stopped. Wroxham were ahead, against the run of play.
If the County Cup had taught the viewing public anything, it was that Stevenage’ do not give in. And so the story continued. With two minutes remaining Boro’ earned a free kick right of centre inside the Wroxham half. Webster delivered an inch-perfect ball for Bellinger to rise highest and head the ball low into the bottom corner for the equaliser.
Stevenage were not content and searched for more, with the bit between their teeth. Wroxham too sensed a chance to snatch victory and their ball to set the attacker free was adjudged offside, a decision that although seemingly controversial, was proven to be spot on upon viewing the replay. This free kick, just inside the Boro’ half, was taken by Webster. Her ball into the box bounced once before Bellinger pulled the trigger only to see the ball cannon off the crossbar. Despair turned to elation as the rebound fell at an awkward height for Fidler to send the ball into the net and break Wroxham hearts.
It may have felt cruel to the players who had worked so hard, but the result itself was hard to argue against as manager Dave Perry said afterwards “We spent ninety minutes peppering the goal and we didn’t get the breakthrough. Wroxham played their part and hung in there but we have a very good squad and they kept plugging away. It’s a long coach journey if you lose!” It may still have been long with the win, but it was certainly a happier one.
Wroxham: Gowing, Bradford, Densley, Kett, Hodgson, Overton, Russell (c), Robson, Bullard, Catchpole, O’Neill
Subs: Olive, Fullbrook, Walker
Bookings: Kett, O’Neill
Stevenage: O’Brien, Neal, Webster (c), Farmer, Nebbitt, Bodily, Price, Wodhams, Shephard, Millen, Gooderham
Subs: Fidler, Makewell, Bellinger, Brooks, Schofield
Goals: Bellinger, Fidler